Star Trek: The Animated Series benefited from a strike
While Star Trek: The Animated Series may no longer be considered canon to the main timeline, it has unexpected ties to the franchise, including coming about during the writer’s strike in 1973. Even more importantly, D.C. Fontana was able to use the rules of the WGA to let her coworkers from Star Trek: The Original Series work without crossing the picket line and introducing new authors to the Star Trek writer’s room. While not all of these writers were able to continue with Star Trek: The Next Generation due to behind-the-scenes conflicts, many writers were able to use their experiences working for ST: TAS to launch their writing careers in Hollywood.
The 1973 strike was focused on ensuring writers received residuals from their work as new avenues for fans to see episodes again emerged. These included the introduction of home video recordings and the beginnings of cable TV; both meant more fans than ever would be able to view episodes, but fans could now own episode recordings to view whenever they wanted. While the writers began the strike to claim their share of profits from these new revenue streams, many network productions halted.
ST: TAS was on the cusp of losing the contract and thus ending before it began, but since the strike specifically referred to most forms of live-action television, ST: TAS had more leeway. As an animated production, ST: TAS was not as limited by the strike. Writers could submit one script for an animated show legally without breaking the strike rules. While D.C. Fontana herself had to be very careful about choosing which script to accept from her former co-workers to keep with the one script rule, she was also able to hire many new writers and give them a chance to work on a script without the stress of turning out multiple scripts at once like she and others had to do during ST: TOS. The result of the specific conditions surrounding this series is stunning – many of the scripts dealt with mature themes not usually found in cartoons of the era which led to the only Emmy won by the franchise ever.
Can modern Star Trek benefit from the strike?
The 2023 WGA SAG-AFTRA strike may have delayed many Star Trek productions, including the Paramount+ Section 31 project, new series Starfleet Academy, and more, the casts and crews can now resume work. The improved contracts with better pay and residuals may give many of them a more secure livelihood which may mean they can produce more and even better work for future Star Trek series.
The 1973 strike forced series runner D.C. Fontana to look to new talent to produce enough scripts for the series while also giving former co-workers the option to write a single script during the strike. This combination led to a series that was not only thought provoking, but yielded an unexpected Emmy award. The fact a series that was nearly derailed by the strike and now largely forgotten by the casual fans won critical notice and was rewarded for all the risks it took is stunning.
While the production of the next (possibly final) season of Star Trek: Lower Decks is only now starting and Star Trek: Prodigy has only been able to finish the almost complete second season without knowing if it will be picked up by another network or streaming service, both animated shows may be able to look back at how the first Star Trek animated series was able to utilize the talents of writers from the preceding series and scripts from new writers to develop a series that by embracing mature storytelling won an Emmy. As Prodigy itself has already been nominated for Emmys, it may use this opportunity to win the next Emmy for the franchise.